Stuart Alan Kauffman is an American medical doctor, theoretical biologist, and complex systems researcher who studies the origin of life on Earth. He was a professor at the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Calgary. He is currently emeritus professor of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and affiliate faculty at the Institute for Systems Biology. He has a number of awards including a MacArthur Fellowship and a Wiener Medal.
He is best known for arguing that the complexity of biological systems and organisms might result as much from self-organization and far-from-equilibrium dynamics as from Darwinian natural selection, as discussed in his book Origins of Order. He also proposed the self-organized emergence of collectively autocatalytic sets of polymers, specifically peptides, for the origin of molecular reproduction, which have found experimental support.
January 17, 2024
This article proposes a new definition of life as chemical systems that achieve catalytic closure, constraint closure, and spatial closure. It argues that the emergence of such living systems is an expected phase transition in the evolving universe. However, the ever-creative evolution of life thereafter cannot be explained by physics alone, showing the limits of reductionism. Life is a double miracle—expected yet unexplainable.